Monday, February 1, 2010

Wagner vs. Verdi: Nationalism vs. Globalism

Tonight's adult education event at Seattle University, second in our series of broad Verdi vs. Wagner topics, will look at politics in the operas and lives of these two great composers; more specifically we'll investigate how both of them rode the great nineteenth-century wave of nation-building which created Italy and Germany, as modern political entities, and how both saw glimmers of a different kind of political structure down the road, the first inklings of a truly global culture.

Verdi wrote the theme music for Italian unification; his name even became a political slogan, so that those who shouted "Viva Verdi!" in mid-nineteenth century Italy were waving flags supporting the movement that eventually crowned Vittorio Emmanuele II as king of the united Italy. And Wagner's connection to German nationalism is well-known, its ramifications still debated. Tonight we'll look at moments from Verdi and Wagner operas promoting national identity, German and Italian, as well as the xenophobia which tends to accompany such statements of unity. Then, we'll glance through a handful of their operas, comparing and contrasting how they present political issues such as fascism, capitalism, socialism, communism, colonies and empire, slavery, prejudice, displaced populations, and the industrial revolution and the environmental movement. And we'll end by looking at the lives both lived outside their native lands: as exiles, dissidents, outcasts, travellers, and (eventually) lionized celebrities. (We'll even hear some of the music they wrote in celebration of other political groups, Verdi's "Hymn of the Nations" and Wagner's "American Centennial March".)

Come to Seattle University's Wyckoff Auditorium at 7 pm tonight, and join us for this interesting discussion!